Unusual, Strange & Funny Judicial Decisions and Opinions logo Now famous as, simply, [1973] USFJDO 1, the facts start at four o'clock in the morning on July 24, 1971. Blond-haired, 19-year-old Stephen Collins had been out drinking. As he was waddling around the streets of Colchester, England, presumably towards his home, he happened upon the house of an 18-year old female acquaintance on whom he had a crush.

He had come to know her because he had previously worked around her house. In fact, he knew which window of the house led into her bedroom -  and he noticed that the window was open. He may also known that the young woman lived with her mother.

The young woman had also had a large amount of alcohol that night but she had spent it with her boyfriend (not Stephen Collins), who was also blonde, and with whom she was having an intimate relationship.

Stephen Collins knew where the stepladder was which he quietly retrieved and placed against the house and climbed up to the window. When he looked in, there was his crush whom, in spite of the darkness, he saw naked in her bed, immediately under the window.

censored law reportsWe pick up the story in the words of the appeal judge:

"(Stephen) descended the ladder and stripped off all his clothes, with the exception of his socks, because apparently he took the view that if the girl’s mother entered the bedroom it would be easier to effect a rapid escape if he had his socks on than if he was in his bare feet.”

He then climbed back up the ladder and re-appeared on the window sill, again, with the moonlight on his back.

Lo and behold, this time, the girl was not only awake but she saw his "obvious arousal". His evidence at trial was that just as he was pulling himself into the room:

"… she awoke. She then got up and knelt on the bed, she put her arms around (my) neck and body, and she seemed to pull (me) into the bed.

"I was rather dazed, because I didn’t think she would want to know me. We kissed and cuddled for about ten or fifteen minutes and then I had it away with her but found it hard because I had had so much to drink."

According to the appeal judgment:

"The young lady ... realised several things: first of all that the form in the window was that of a male; secondly that he was a naked male. And thirdly that he was a naked male with an erect penis…. She also saw in the moonlight that his hair was blond.

"She thereupon leapt to the conclusion that her boyfriend, with whom for some time she had been on terms of regular and frequent sexual intimacy, was paying her an ardent nocturnal visit.”

They both agreed: she invited this unidentified erect penis in.

Collins could not believe his luck and was not about to argue. They proceeded to have "full intimate relations".

After a few minutes, as the woman later testified, she came to realize that there was something different about the man on top of her:

"The length of his hair, his voice as they had exchanged what was described as love talk, and other features led her to the conclusion that somehow there was something different."

She reached over and switched on the bedside light and saw that it wasn't her boyfriend, it was Stephen Collins. She slapped him on the face and demanded that he leave, which he promptly did.

Someone told someone who called the police. Collins was charged with burglary with intent to commit rape contrary to §9 of the Theft Act 1968.

Both he and his sexual partner testified at trial, before a jury, and both were believable. The facts weren't really at issue.

The woman swore under oath that while the facts asserted by the accused were entirely accurate, she had been fooled into thinking that it was her boyfriend's erection and that she would never have agreed to have sex with Stephen Collins'.

The lawyers had a field day as well. The facts were as delicious as anything William Shakespeare could have come up with.

The appeal judge started his judgment with these words:

"This is about as extraordinary a case as my brethren and I have ever heard either on the Bench or while at the Bar…. Were they put into a novel or portrayed on the stage, they would be regarded as being so improbable as to be unworthy of serious consideration and as verging at times on farce."

Conviction came down to whether or not Collins had trespassed; trespass being an essential element of the offense of burglary.

"One feature of the case which remained at the conclusion of the evidence in great obscurity is where exactly the appellant was at the moment when, according to him, the girl manifested that she was welcoming him. Was he kneeling on the sill outside the window or was he already inside the room, having climbed through the window frame, and kneeling on the inner sill? It was a crucial matter…. It must be proved that he entered as a trespasser…."

The jury convicted Collins and the judge gave him a 21 month prison sentence for forcible entry into a dwelling house with intent to rape.

He appealed the decision and his conviction set aside by the English Court of Appeal on May 5, 1972, the judgment written by Justice Edmund Davies:

"This appeal must be allowed on the basis that the jury were never invited to consider the vital question whether this young man did enter the premises as a trespasser, that is to say knowing perfectly well that he had no invitation to enter or reckless of whether or not his entry was with permission. This young man must be acquitted of the charge preferred against him."

Since these events, first within a dark, residential district of Colchester one warm summer night, and later in the English Court of Appeal as wigs and silk spoke of erections and sex, this case would have been buried in the ancient law reports instead, as is deserved, preserved for posterity by the fabulous, only true contemporary law report, USFJDO.

Further, to allow the reader full participation in this orgy of law, we invite you to participate in the jury deliberations by voting on the question: was Stephen Collins guilty of any criminal conduct in the events of July 24, 1971? Click here to help us resolve this significant but titillating legal conundrum.

REFERENCES:

  • R v. Collins, [1972] USFJDO 1; also at [1973] 1 QB 100; also at [1972] 2 All E.R. 1105